Anything is Possible; Separate Businesses Allowed Under Same Roof

Freshly relaxed zoning rules in some districts means third-wave coffee shops that sell dinosaur planters could be coming near you.

Taco shop that sells handmade shoes, anyone?

With recently relaxed zoning allowances, prepare for some quirky shop combinations in 2019. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a flexible retail use ordinance that allows different types of businesses to occupy the same space.

The ordinance is seen as a solution to a changing retail market that can help brick-and-mortar businesses survive. Stores that fall under the category of arts activities, limited restaurant, general retail, personal service, retail professional service, and trade shop can now mix and match in the same space, bringing both eclectic shops and relief to businesses. 

Instead of facing steep rents and high start-up costs amid a citywide slew of empty storefronts on their own, different types of business — with two different owners — are now allowed under the same roof with greater ease. The Inner Sunset location of local apparel company San Franpsycho, which added a miniature coffee and ice cream bar in 2015, is one example of combination shops.

“It’s old news that retail is changing,” said Supervisor Vallie Brown, a co-sponsor of the ordinance, at Tuesday’s board meeting. “We need to support our merchants as they adapt. It’s important that we as a city don’t get in the way of those changes.”

Plus, pop-up shops can test the waters for up to 60 days with a temporary permit. People in and around the Sunset, Richmond, Western Addition, Bayview, and Ingleside will notice the changes, as the ordinance applies to districts 1, 4, 5, 10, and 11.

The legislation came out of ongoing conversations between the office of Supervisor Katy Tang, who spearheaded the ordinance, and Eve Batey, SFist co-founder and owner of Avenues Dry Goods in the Outer Sunset. Batey thought combined stores with different owners could be interesting to try before they realized it wasn’t fully permitted.

“The Sunset is evolving so swiftly that we are really trying to pay attention to what people are asking us for,” Batey tells SF Weekly. “I know a lot of small businesses are already trying things like this…I know legislation like this is going to make people breathe easier.”

A study released in February by the Office of Economic and Workforce Development titled “State of the Retail Sector” backed the push with data. It found that retail sales started to slow in 2016 despite economic advantages, such as tourism, and that the permitting process can add a significant cost and time to opening a new business. Combining shop uses and subleasing space to other retailers is listed as an adaptation strategy.

The board will cast a final vote on Nov. 27 before passing legislation onto Mayor London Breed. If you begin to notice some bizarre dual shops after it takes effect in 2019, this is why.

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